Author: Elisa Nader
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller, Dystopian
Published: August 18th, 2013
Publisher: Merit Press
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Source: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
"Since the age of ten, Mia has lived under the iron fist of the fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join his fanatical family of followers. In Edenton, a supposed “Garden of Eden” deep in the South American jungle, everyone follows the Reverend’s strict but arbitrary rules—even the mandate of whom they can marry. Now sixteen, Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in, and the curious out. When the rebellious and sexy Gabriel, a new boy, arrives with his family, Mia sees a chance to escape.
But the scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they ever imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond together, more than friends and freedom fighters. But is there time to think of each other as they race to stop the Reverend’s paranoid plan to free his flock from the corrupt world? Can two teenagers crush a criminal mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman who’s only concerned about his own secrets?"~Goodreads
I've always been fascinated with cults. It's that morbid curiosity thing and I just can't help it. So when I heard about this Jonestown-esque story I just had to read it. This book promises suspense, action and shocking secrets and boy does it deliver.
- Real Life Dystopia: The setting in this book is masterfully put together. Nader has created a horrible paradise that feels so real I'm not entirely convinced it isn't. Of course the thing is, it is real. No, Edenton isn't a real place, but there have been and probably still are compounds like it out there. For a good example (and I would imagine probably the inspiration for this book) check out Jonestown. Probably the most terrifying thing about this story is that it can and does happen in real life. This isn't some post-apocalyptic dystopian that takes place in the distant future. It takes place right now and not in some alternate reality.
- Somebody paid attention in Psychology class: One of the most impressive things about this book is the author's understanding of her characters' psychology. As with victims of systematic abuse, the people of Edenton are controlled by their fear of The Reverend. This fear develops into guilt and they believe they deserve all that he does to them. Those of us not in this situation may not understand why they would not rebel under such cruelty, but the author handles this very nicely. The reader is able to sympathize with The Flock even while hating what their community stands for.
- Subtle but intense romance: I was really happy with the way that the romance was handled in this story. I think it would have been a mistake to make it the most important plot point. It definitely takes a back seat to the action and suspense. However, the romance that is there is very intense and much different than in most YA novels. Gabriel and Mia both have so many varied issues that it would be impossible for them to have a normal romance. But the chemistry is great and fit in perfectly with the story.
- Emotion could have been better at times: There were some moments in the book where I felt like the emotion could have been higher. In particular, there is a scene near the beginning involving cookies. I'll leave it at that so I don't ruin it for you, but you'll know when you get there. I'm reading this scene going "HOLY CRAP WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!" and the main character just sort of acknowledges it and moves onto the next day. It's possible that this was done on purpose to show how numb she has become to cruelty, but good lord. EMOTE!
- Gabriel's parents - WTF?: Gabriel's parents (and really many of the parents here) should be ashamed of themselves. I won't go into detail because I don't want to spoil anything but in one of the last scenes they sit there as terrible things are about to happen to their child. Now, of course at this point they are probably completely controlled by fear so you could give them that, but from what I can gather they've been pretty awful parents since the beginning. So when they are seemingly absolved later on I had a little trouble buying it. I can't imagine being able to forgive people who put me through something like that. Maybe I'm just not Edenton material.
Overall this book was great. It caught my attention from page one and kept me riveted throughout. I really came to care about the characters and by the end of the book I felt like I needed a good cry and possibly a Xanax. The storyline would have been interesting all on it's own but Nader added her own twists and turns and really amped up the suspense. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.